Thursday, February 23, 2006

that ports thing

I'm surprised at the tone-deafness about this UAE ports thing. As the Post reported, nobody in the de facto Administration thought that selling management of ports to a Middle Eastern company would be controversial.

Sure, the sale was reviewed by professionals. Sure, Dubai Ports World (DPW) is a reputable, legitimate company that operates other ports. Sure, the United Arab Emirates is a friend of the United States and has cooperated against terrorism. Sure, responsibility for port security will be left, to paraphrase Jon Stewart, to the woefully inadequate people at the Department of Homeland Security.

But it's ironic that an Administration that every so often reminds everybody we're "a nation at war" by saying "Boo" to us all with fearmongering stories of Arab terrorists sailing nuclear bombs into our ports didn't realize that letting New York and other ports be operated by a company owned by an Arab government might strike a nerve.

The fact that the terms of the approval gave the company exceptions to requirements that they hold business documents in the United States, where they would be accessible by subpoena, probably didn't make some of the opponents of the proposal any happier. Bush's case -- he is even threatening to veto a piece of legislation for the first time over this -- isn't made any easier by the statements by former Department of Homeland Security official John King, who said that Al Qaeda could try to intimidate DPW officials into hiring Al Qaeda sympathizers and getting visa, work permits etc for them.

I don't know whether or not that is an exaggeration. In any case, I have a different concern. Do we want to let a company owned by a foreign government -- ANY foreign government -- operate US ports? I don't like the idea of giving another government (British, United Arab Emirate, Brazilian, whatever) potential indirect control over the operations at major US ports like New York and New Orleans.